New BCG research suggests that 70 percent of digital transformations fall short of their objectives.
That would not surprise any of you familiar with the general success rate of major enterprise technology projects. From 2003 to 2012, only 6.4 percent of federal IT projects with $10 million or more in labor costs were successful, according to a study by Standish, noted by Brookings.
IT project success rates range between 28 percent and 30 percent, Standish also notes. The World Bank has estimated that large-scale information and communication projects (each worth over U.S. $6 million) fail or partially fail at a rate of 71 percent.
McKinsey says that big IT projects also often run over budget. Roughly half of all large IT projects—defined as those with initial price tags exceeding $15 million—run over budget. On average, large IT projects run 45 percent over budget and seven percent over time, while delivering 56 percent less value than predicted, McKinsey says.
Significantly, 17 percent of IT projects go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company, according to McKinsey.
The same sort of challenge exists whenever telecom firms try to move into adjacent roles within the internet or computing ecosystems. As with any proposed change, the odds of success drop as the number of successful approvals or activities increases.
The rule of thumb is that 70 percent of organizational change programs fail, in part or completely.
There is a reason for that experience. Assume you propose some change that requires just two approvals to proceed, with the odds of approval at 50 percent for each step. The odds of getting “yes” decisions in a two-step process are about 25 percent (.5x.5=.25). In other words, if only two approvals are required to make any change, and the odds of success are 50-50 for each stage, the odds of success are one in four.
The odds of success get longer for any change process that actually requires multiple approvals. Assume there are five sets of approvals. Assume your odds of success are high--about 66 percent--at each stage. In that case, your odds of success are about one in eight for any change that requires five key approvals (.66x.66x.66x.66x.66=82/243).
The same sorts of issues occur when any telecom firm tries to move out of its core function within the ecosystem and tries to compete in an adjacent area.
Consultants at Bain and Company argue that the odds of success are perhaps 35 percent when moving to an immediate adjacency, but drop to about 15 percent when two steps from the present position are required and to perhaps eight percent when a move of three steps is required.
The common thread here is that any big organizational change, whether an IT project or a move into new roles within the ecosystem, is quite risky, even if necessary. The odds of success are low, for any complex change, no matter how vital.